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What You Need to Know About the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act (EPOA)

Posted Aug 03, 2021 03:47 PM
Thank you to everyone in King County who filled out the Wage & Benefits Survey! The public database will be available on the 501 Commons website later this fall, allowing you to compare wages for various job titles across the sector.

This information will help your organization ensure you’re compensating employees fairly and equitably and are complying with the Washington State Equal Pay and Opportunities Act (EPOA). This law, most recently updated in July 2019, prohibits gender-based discrimination when compensating employees who are “similarly employed.”

Under this law, “similarly employed” means those whose job requires similar skill, effort, and responsibility, under similar working conditions. It is not limited to people with the same job title. For those similarly employed, discrepancies in pay must be related to a bona fide factor such as seniority, special training/education, an internal merit system, or quantifiable experience (see RCW 49.58.020(3)(b) for a list of job-related bona fide factors).

What does this mean for employees? For anyone based in Washington State, this means you are entitled to equal pay with those “similarly employed." This makes it easier than before to file a complaint and pursue the complaint legally over unequal pay practices or career advancement opportunities.

Additionally, employers can no longer ask questions about your previous pay history, because it might reflect and perpetuate previous gender bias. You can also request information regarding the minimum compensation for any position you are offered or any position you are transferred or promoted into.

What does this mean for employers? You should immediately review your hiring, interviewing, and compensation practices. Take a deep look at all positions based on the four factors for “similar” employment to ensure internal equity. In the hiring process, do not ask an applicant, or their former employer, for wage/salary history. You may ask about compensation expectations. Learn more on the Washington State Legislature website.

When a job offer is made, the law also requires employers to provide a position’s minimum compensation rate if requested by a new hire or an internal employee who has been demoted or transferred. You do not have to follow this guideline if you have fewer than 15 employees – though we do recommend it as an equity-focused practice.

If you need assistance in complying with these rules, our Human Resources team can help guide you through retooling your hiring and pay practices so that they are within the law, ethical, and transparent - and advancing your IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and access) principles in a concrete way. Request services by filling out this form and we will follow up with a conversation to get started.